Evolution and the Anthropic Principle
Richard Dawkins vs Ken Wilber
Where Am I
The Cheshire Cat
I Could Have Been a Contender
What I Wish Id Said
Keeping Up with the World
The Flight of the Phoenix
The Power of Fog
Naming the Unnamed
Principles in Art
Spirit and Matter
The Enlightenment Conundrum
On Believing
Water? What Water?
Telling Stories 2
I believe in Rainbows
Whom Can We Believe
Patterns by Paul Simon and Douglas Hofstadter
Copyright Inheritance
Broad Minded
Beliefs Part Two
A Long drawn-out solstice
The Quest for, and the Illusion of, Certainty
To the Ends of the Earth
The Meaning Of Life
We Hold These Truths
There are Beliefs
Music and Language
Circular Thinking
Runaway World
Deep Playmate
An Alchemy of Telling
Cultural Genes
The Joy of Science
The Conundrum of Human Nature
No, The Computer Isn't Smarter than I Am!
A Rant on Religion
The West Wing Turning Right?
The Geometry of Spring
Music as Language
What is Art
Beauty and Spirit
You Don't Understand Us
The New God of Probability
Gene Hackman as President
Being Lifted Out of the Ordinary
The Head and the Heart
Pay Attention!
Music Poetry and Meaning
On Seeking Truth
Perceptions and Reality
The Marriage Bond
Taboo is a Right
Copyright versus Copyleft
Cycles of Transcendence
Ego and Self
The Big Picture
Mindfulness as Larger Mind
The Power of Words
The State of the Union
Out of My Mind
Family Thoughts
One Life
Telling Stories
Small World
Bigger Realities
What Comes Next
Humor as a Higher Level of Consciousness
Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong
Emotional Resonance
Extraordinary Respect
Insight Meditation
Us and Them
Paradox and Paradigm
To Reach
I Don't Know
Don the Romantic
The Guy in the Blue Saab
The Sound of Silence
Eating is an Intimate Act
Evolution of Spirit
On Cloning and Other . . .
Creativity and Psychic Phenomena
Magic in My Life
My Difficulty with Aaron
Mindful & Mystic
Taste of Irony
Music Appreciation
Levels of Consciousness

What I Wish I’d Said . . .

Last week, at a ninetieth birthday celebration for Elizabeth Mike, who had just published two books of her short stories, I was acknowledged for my technical assistance in getting the books to the printer. Elizabeth motioned to me to go up front and say something, but I shook my head and sat back down. In the middle of that night, I composed in my head “what I wish I’d said.”

What makes writers write?

In one way, it’s the height of naïvety—and probably arrogance, as well—to even attempt to answer that question. Ask a dozen writers what makes them write, and you’ll get at least a dozen answers. And I don’t know Elizabeth well enough to hazard what she’d respond to the question. But there’s another level at which I might offer something.

A writer—at least one who chooses what to write—has to come up with topics and ideas out of her own head, even if they are triggered by outside events, memories, or reading what others write. A writer of stories, as Elizabeth is, has to depend upon the power of her imagination. As you read these stories, you’ll come to know Elizabeth better and better. She, as a human being, is revealed in what she writes. It’s not only the themes and plots of her stories that you’ll get here.

A writer, down deep, responds to forces that are almost by definition beyond her ability to describe. There’s something there, deep inside, that struggles to be known. Essay writers, like me, are sometimes audacious enough to try to explain that something, even as we know that ultimately it’s hopeless. It just drives us to put more words on paper.

In that, writers are not all that different from other people. We all do things for reasons we’re not sure of, or at least that we haven’t been able to express except through the things we do with our lives. At our deepest levels, we sense something that is both inside us and beyond us at the same time. The gardener who plants seeds and tends the soil experiences something that connects him or her to Life, the same way a mother nurtures her children or a child relates to a puppy or a kitten. There’s something miraculous going on, and when we stop and let it in, we feel more connected to the universe.

An artist, creating a painting or a sculpture, is not working totally alone. Down beneath the physical materials she works with is a force—subtle as it may be, it pulls her and shapes what she creates. A business person, full of skill and learning, who builds an enterprise, may be focused on numbers and materials and social situations, but his urge to create comes from someplace deeper.

Storytelling is a craft that some people can learn to do well, just as an architect can learn to design a building. Great stories, and great designs, we say are inspired. Inspired by what? The rest of us try to learn the skills and the language of our chosen field, and whether our work comes to be considered inspired or not, there is still that small thread connecting us to something that seems to be outside of us but is surely a part of us all.

A writer puts into words the experiences of life. A really creative writer lets us experience things that might otherwise go unnoticed, even though they are just as much inside us. Inspired words touch us in our deeper feelings, our sometimes secret places, where we resonate with the subtle forces, the profound meanings that human beings share, even when we don’t always acknowledge them.

There aren’t words for many of those meanings. The best writers may use a lot of words to try to suggest them. The poet attempts to strip out all of the extra words, to distill the suggestions in order to make them more pure, to aim for the heart and soul without so much verbal clutter. Either way, the fine thread of shared meaning connects us to something beyond us—and to each other.

As you read these 146 stories, some that are “true” in the sense that the events really happened, and others that are true because they touch us at a level beneath physical happenings, I think you’ll come to feel connected to Elizabeth in a way you haven’t before.


Donald Skiff, October 29, 2007

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